Most people remember the firsts in life: their first bike, their first car and their first kiss. But only engine collectors can add their first engine. And mine was a 1919 1-1/2 HP Economy.
I work for a John Deere dealership that has been in the family for over 70 years. One day, I was sent to pick up a tractor in Farmington, Conn. When I got to the address, the house looked like a small version of the White House – not a house I would be buying any time soon. I met with Mr. and Mrs. Scott. Mr. Scott took me to the shed were the tractor was kept, and I happened to notice a set of flywheels in a pile of stuff that came out of the shed.
After loading the tractor on the truck, I asked Mr. Scott about the engine. He told me that the engine was in the shed when he bought the house. He was going to get it started but was told that it was missing parts, so he just left it in the shed. But now that he had sold the house, he had to clean everything out. Then he said the one thing that makes every engine collector’s day: “If you are interested in the engine you can have it.” It was on the truck in minutes.
On the way back home, I stopped by my uncle Loren’s house to show him my new find. After a quick look at the engine, he said it looked in good shape – all I needed was an igniter and magneto. He told me to go see Al Verrell who has a large collection of engines and may have the parts I needed.
That Sunday I stopped by Al’s house and he came out to look at my engine. He told me that it was an Economy originally sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. and that Sears had sold a lot of engines from different manufacturers. He said the Economy was a pretty common engine, and that it was a good engine to learn from. He then invited me in to see his collection. I spent the next three hours talking with Al and looking at his engines. There were many small ones that he had built himself. He looked to see if he had the parts I needed, but no luck. I visited Al many times to see what he was working on and to talk about engines.
Al sent me to see Ralph Waters, who was a collector/dealer. You could have spent days at Ralph’s place and never see everything. Ralph had his hands on more engines than most people see in a lifetime. Best of all was that he had the Webster magneto and igniter that I needed for my engine.
It took a few years to restore the engine and build the cart. I tried to make a common engine stand out a little bit with a better- than-factory paint job. I also added some stainless steel and chrome. When I take it to shows, it seems to put smiles on people’s faces just before they say, “It didn’t come from the factory like that.”
My uncle Loren, Al and Ralph are all gone now, but every time I look at the Economy I think of them. I didn’t realize that every time I spent time with them they were infecting me with rusty iron disease (my wife doesn’t think there is a cure for it). I now have more than 20 engines, a few tractors and a couple of old cars, and have spent time with a lot of great people.
Contact Tim Marvin at 316 Parum Rd., Colchester, CT 06415 • (860) 537-4394 •